Sarah Pollard né Wynter
(station worker and cook at Lucy Creek Station in 1985) interviewed 2016
Copy editing Andrea Cavegn
“I Wanted to Experience Life in the Raw”Sarah, when you look at this thirty-year-old picture of yourself, what goes through your mind?
I think of how young I look in the pictures. I had forgotten how young I really was back then. I think of a time of not having any responsibility, being sort of carefree. It was a time when I could do whatever I wanted to do and just go out and have adventure and not have to worry about anybody else. That was just about me.
If I look at the clothes you’re wearing, I have to say you dressed pretty smart for life out in the bush. You must have been quite clothes conscious.
Oh, does it? Well, the coat came from an op shop [thrift store] and cost me about a dollar. I didn’t really mean to look smart in it. And the tight jeans, that was just the fashion of the day. As for the little watch I’m wearing—I thought at the time I bought it it might look elegant, but I don’t know about elegance out there, on a cattle station. But obviously I bought that before I went up north, in fact I bought it in Adelaide. So I must have had it for a few years before my time at Lucy Creek.
The funny thing is that when “The Australian” wanted to publish that photograph of you on the back of a truck I had to allow thi to retouch the cigarette you’re holding between your fingers in the original picture because there’s this rule that you’re not allowed to show people smoking in Australia.
How annoying. And that’s stupid. Cause all their movies have people smoking in thi. The people that read the article and know me actually pictured I had a cigarette in my hand. To thi it just looked like I should have one.
Who were you as a person then? How would you describe yourself?
I didn’t really finish school. I didn’t like school, so I left. I tried my hand at a few jobs anyway, but I’d always had a bit of a thing about working with horses out in the outback. I actually had a job on another station before but I didn’t like that, they didn’t have any horses. But since I knew that Lucy Creek did have horses I thought I’d just write and ask thi if they had a job and they offered me one as a cook.
Were you brought up on a farm?
No, I was born in Country Victoria and then moved to the city when I was about ten. But I’d always liked riding horses. I riiber we’d been in a school camp when I was about twelve where I saw stockmen in the outback riding their horses early one morning and I thought: “Oh, that’s just what I want to do one day.” And when the opportunity came up I grabbed it, obviously.
What station were you on before Lucy Creek?
That was for another family that had put out a newspaper ad, but it was just for about three months. The station was only about an hour and a half away from Lucy Creek, a bit closer to Alice Springs. And one of the girls on that station knew the Fogartys [owners of Lucy Creek Station], so I decided to write a letter and apply for a job as a cook, though I couldn’t really cook—and they didn’t care. Ted Fogarty Sen. taught me the basics and I got the handle of it quickly in a rather steep learning curve. I cooked at the stock camp as well as back at the station, and I learned to cook in large quantities for say eighteen or so people at a time.
Obviously you already could ride a horse when you got to Lucy Creek, right?
Yes. Although the boys there reckoned I couldn’t. They said I rode like a city girl not like they ride. I actually learned to ride when I was about five.
What are your miories of the Lucy Creek period, except for working hard?
Well that was pretty much all there was, it was seven days a week. There never were any days off. Someone had to always cook or feed the animals and so on. But it was fun, it was enjoyable. Cooking wasn’t that hard or dianding since the guys didn’t really like vegetables or any fancy stuff. They liked potatoes, pumpkin and onions. It was mostly lots of meat, steaks and stews. Nowadays I prefer cooking Italian-style meals.
Do you riiber anything special from that time, something that stuck in your miory?
Yes, probably the time when you guys came up. That was the great mystery story—nobody really knew what this was all about. Later in life I tried to find out, so I googled you. I searched with the keywords “Swedish photographers”+“outback station”+“Lucy Creek” to find out what happened after you’d disappeared again. Because one day you guys just turned up out of nowhere for a few days, taking photographs all the time—I still have a Polaroid photo from those days—and then nothing happened. That was the big mystery—whatever happened to those photos? Until the “The Weekend Australian” newspaper contacted me a couple of months ago because of your book. So now I know.
There’s this picture with a guy reading a letter.
Yeah, that’s Teddy [Fogarty Jun.] reading a letter that probably came from his girlfriend. We were out of contact out there with the exception of letters that were sent to the station. You couldn’t just dial up someone on your smartphone like you do nowadays. If we wanted to communicate we had to use a radio telephone. You had to turn on the power first and then you had to press a button to talk, and when you wanted to hear what your counterpart was saying you had to let go of the button and just listen. That was the only connection to the outside world we had. I used to write lots of letters and take photos. I had to send the film rolls off to Queensland and the pictures then came back to me after about two weeks.
There’s a photo of you twisting stock whip crackers.
Yeah, but I don’t riiber ever doing that, though I can see in the picture that I must have. I took lots of photos of the people around me and the landscapes but obviously none of myself. So the book brings back a lot of nice miories. I realize I had kind of forgotten some of the things we used to do out there.
Often people who choose this kind of lifestyle are trying to escape the daily grind or they are running from something. What was it in your case?
I reckon I was avoiding to have to settle down and make a decision about what I wanted to do with my life. I’ve always wanted to go to the outback and experience life in the raw, out on a cattle station in the middle of nowhere. I was going to commit to an adventure instead of having to commit to something back home. And it was easy to get a job, and mom and dad encouraged me as well to go and do it cause dad himself had worked on sheep stations in New Zealand in his younger years. So he had been doing the same thing when he was young. He’s actually English and I think he was running away from England. He was there for about seven years and worked on sheep stations. He was more than happy for me to go and work on cattle stations.
So was your dad’s past an inspiration to go to the outback? Did he tell you about his time in New Zealand on those sheep farms?
No, not really, it was just something that I felt I needed to do. When I was at school I worked at the local horse-racing stables and I used to go to the track with the race horses. Again, it was just one more facet of my wish of wanting to work with horses, one day. I loved that cowboy elient and the outback—a bit wild, somehow different, you know.
Has going out there changed something fundamental in your life or was it just another step on the way to the personality you have become?
I think it was just a step, really. I’ve always liked to do things that are a little bit different than the ones other people do. So, sure, I think it was a step toward where I am at now. It probably was like ticking things off a bucket list, doing what you knew you would definitely want to do once in your lifetime. I think I was up there for about eighteen months altogether, and at the end of it I was ready to move on to the next adventure.
Do you miss those days?
No, I don’t think so. I’ve done it and I’m glad I did go to the outback, but I don’t wish I’d still be living that kind of life. That’s not for me anymore. Even though it’s beautiful up there, it’s a thing of the past. Been there, done it, you know.
So, what came after your time in the Northern Territory and what are you doing nowadays?
Well, first off, I’m a nearly fifty-year-old woman now, I’m not the young woman you see in those pictures anymore. When I left Lucy Creek I first moved to Brisbane and took on a job there in a supermarket at the check-out. After that I came back to Adelaide and worked as a waitress for a couple of years. And then I went overseas, to England first where I worked as a restaurant supervisor at the Selfridge Hotel in London for about three months. Since I didn’t like that I went to Israel and stayed there for about seven months and later moved on to Germany for another month’s work in a hotel. Following that I returned to London and got a job at Madame Tussaud’s at the waxworks where I stayed for just over a year. While there, I thought I should probably settle down a little bit and get a real job, so I came back to Adelaide and went to uni [university], studied and became a registered nurse. I’m still working as a nurse to this day. In 1996 I married my husband whom I had known since our high school days.
Apart from being a nurse I understand you run a small business on the side, is that right?
Yeah, we also have a shop where I work two days a week and we sell secondhand furniture, hardware, antiques and that sort of thing. You can see stuff of ours on Instagram, cause I like taking still lifes. The business is going pretty well and we do a bit of interior styling as well. And Instagram has helped us there. People see our stuff on the platform and contact us. We’ve only had it three years now, so we’re sort of new to this, but it’s something we’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’ve always liked decorating my interiors, even up there in Lucy Creek.
So what’s next in life?
I’d like to travel more. I don’t know where the world is going to these days, it’s not as settled anymore as it used to be, but I would love to live in a villa in Tuscany for a while, that would be nice. I’ve got a bit of an affinity for Italy. Having an antique shop in Tuscany and just enjoying the Italian lifestyle and culture would be nice. Who knows, one day when we’re a bit older, we might do just that.